Save a Throne, Save the World: Upcycling
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Upcycle
In honor of Earth Day, this Saturday, April 22nd, I thought it apropos to talk on the topic of upcycling. Recycling we know to be the process of stripping down consumer materials to their foundation to manufacture new consumer products. Upcycling, however, puts the innovation in your hands. Find something no longer being used: a dresser, a table: update, reconfigure, repurpose and you’ve granted it new life. Sometimes, walking the aisles of big box stores -whether home improvement, furniture, or even housewares – I am overcome by the consumerism. I’m obviously in the store so I’m not denying the appeal of them but truly, I marvel at the amount of stuff created for the consumer, or specifically home-owning consumer. It can be unsettling.
It was in my 20’s that I began to appreciate the beauty and history in antique pieces and started to collect unique finds that spoke to me, like this dresser I got for a steal at an antique fair.
Over the years, as we’ve matured, our families have left us pieces that meant something to them, and thereby, to us. Still…, meaningful doesn’t necessarily mean pretty or useful, does it? You’ve been there. You’ve conveniently stacked a knick-knack on a high shelf invisible to the eye, until that family member has come to visit, at which time it made its way to a more prominent place on your countertop.
Upcycling a Bedroom Set
Like our children, we’ve grown impatient and a bit impulsive. We want a solve to the problem immediately. However, when we take the time to look at the possibility in something, we CAN reimagine it, sometimes better than before. Don’t tell me you’re not creative. I would say the same about myself but I think we all have vision, plainly perceptible or not. So, look at your aunt’s mid-century modern bedroom set again.
Can you make it work for your angsty teenage son? We did just that. Note: I did not take before pictures, so I borrowed the one above but below is the photo of the refinished product.
We took Aunt Dorothy’s four piece Bassett bedroom set, likely purchased in the 50’s, sanded it down, restained it and redelivered it. The blond veneer was replaced with a dark, nearly black finish and the gold, ornate pulls replaced with sleek silver knobs and handles.
The three piece solid wood bedroom set cost us $20 in stain. My son loves the look; we love its history.
Sourcing your Upcycle Treasures
There are a number of sources for used furniture and housewares. Craigslist is wonderfully convenient and easy to navigate if you know what you’re looking for. I enjoy the hunt and also having the opportunity to examine them up close, so I’ll steal away to an antique show when time permits. Estate and yard sales sometimes yield rare finds but more often they are time suckers and can irritate the shopper on a mission. Enter my new favorite consignment store – Habitat for Humanity’s Restore.
Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price. ReStores are independently owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations. Proceeds are used to help build safe and affordable homes in local communities and around the world. Its impossible not to embrace the premise, but there’s more to love than that. You may not have one in your immediate area but with more than 750 locations nationwide, you likely have one a short car-ride away. Wait, wait, don’t tell me; it gets better. You might balk at used things; no judgment. You’re not alone. However, some of the products and materials are brand-new; donated by companies for various reasons (packaging changed, discontinued, etc).
Secondly, you might be very surprised at the quality and variety of product you find.
There are contemporary offerings, alongside pristine antique pieces, the gaudy ‘who in their right mind…’ gems, and the buried treasures, of which there’s always at least one. How I wish I’d had room in my house for this treasure, below.
There are also a fair amount of building supplies: tiles, lumber, doors, windows, hardware, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, appliances, you name it.
The prices are set locally, but I found our store to be extremely competitive. They have a ton of merchandise under one roof. It moves fast, so if you don’t find something in the first pass, come again. Maybe you’ll find the exact piece you didn’t know you were looking for or maybe you’ll see something and know that it was destined for something greater. Greater in your mind’s eye.
So, consider this an unsolicited PSA for the environment, for upcycling, and while you’re at it – for Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. I assure you, you’ll not be disappointed.
Go and be green.